Canadian Musician - September/October 2017 - Page 42

Brass Women of World-Class B rass playing is a physically demanding activity, and there is surprisingly little understanding and education about just how demanding and potentially damaging brass can be to a player’s body – especially if that player is a woman. I reached out to a number of female brass players across Canada to get their insights on such topics as auditioning, getting gigs, and maintaining chops, as well as some lesser known factors of being an active female horn player. Practice rooms are important, but shedding rep- ertoire and developing technique in solitude until you feel prepared enough to expose yourself to an audience does not necessarily lead to work. Getting gigs in a freelance economy is a highly scrutinized subject in the music scene. Most of my mentors love talking about how much the scene has changed, how expectations have changed, especially in the club scene. I’m sure it is a similar story across Canada that, on the whole, clubs don’t pay. As I get older, “door deals” and “pay-to-play” rooms have become the norm and not the exception. In Alberta, in the 1950s through to the ‘80s, we had a provincial bylaw which stipulated that night clubs, bars, or restaurants that wanted to serve alcohol after midnight had to have employed at least a three-piece band in their establishment until 2 a.m. to be paid at the standard union rate. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission created a musical gold rush in Alberta’s major cities. There was work on literally every street corner. Large dancehalls How to Get a Gig 42 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N Insight, Advice& More from Some of Canada’s Best By Audrey Ochoa that employed regular big bands, bars with country bands, jazz trios in lounges, and on and on. This bylaw didn’t last, but it did contribute to an expectation that knowledge and ability are enough to make you employable. It’s not. Calgary-based trumpeter Samantha Whelan Kotkas got creative when faced with the realities of a changing scene. “Diversify. Be entrepreneurial. Create your own opportunities,” she advises. In addition to freelancing and duties as second trumpet in the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, Whelan Kotkas leads many of her own projects. She functions as a musician, producer, and curator, where she employs and directs some of Calgary’s finest jazz and classical musicians. She has produced numerous recordings, regularly tours her own productions, and has appeared with the Edmonton Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, and Calgary Symphony, to name a few. Part of her success is understanding where her strengths are and honouring quality before personal monetary gains.